The Star Party Suprise!

The evening of 30th January was unforgettable night to sky watchers in Dar es Salaam do to reunion with the sky above in a unique unexpected way. Jupiter farewell party which was organized by Dr. Noorali Jiwaji (SPoC Tanzania for IYA 2009), who gave a different test of birthday celebration.  He alerted people but still most of us didn’t manage to recognize a simple astronomical trick in his  invitation e mail where he said “We will be able to mark one more orbit around the Sun, for me”.

Disclosing the puzzle to everyone, on 30th January is Dr. Jiwaji’s  birthday and  this  year’s birthday he celebrated it with the whole universe as well as astronomy interested people in Dar es Salaam, who came from all around with their telescopes and made a big success to his big day on his life on Earth. This was the most spectacular way of celebrating our journey around the Sun with our biofriendly vehicle Planet Earth. The night was filled with much excitement as we had a lot of new members who generated interest in astronomy through watching Jupiter, Mars, Moon and recognition of stars in the sky.

We real appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of Dr. Jiwaji on making his birthday to have meaningful celebration by taking us closer to our neighboring sky, stars and planets which all together awakes our curiosity to wonders of the sky above.

A word from Dr. Jiwaji

We had a well attended meeting on Saturday night to bid farewell to Jupiter.  Although about 20 members had confirmed to participate, we had an attendance of close to 30 people since some members came with guests.  I was really pleased with the response and shows that the participation in Astronomy activities is growing day by day.

We had several teachers from several secondary and primary schools in Dar es Salaam.  This is a very good sign since teachers are the key players in sustaining astronomy through the students that they will influence.  They will also be able to attract students to pursue science subjects in schools, Universities.

I was also please that I had so many people around me to mark the end of my 57th orbit around the Sun.  I had started this journey 57 years ago on 30th January 1953 and what better way for me to mark this important day than through astronomy activities.

Though some of our observations were interrupted by clouds, we were able to say farewell to Jupiter when the sky cleared up just in time  However Jupiter’s moons were not distinctly visible because Jupiter was rather low on the horizon where the path light has to pass through much thicker atmosphere.

Satellites were also not seen due to either missing the timing in the excitement of the activities or the clouds interrupted tracking it properly in the expected directions.

The Moon was Full and remarkably big because it was at its perigee, that is closest to earth, at 356,592 km.  The farthest distance of the Moon from Earth (called apogee) is 406,541, which is nearly 50,000 km further and will occur during the next Full Moon on 13th February.

Mars was seen as a bright star that rose in the East just as the sun was setting in the west.  This is called opposition when the sun shines on the full face of the red planet.  Combined with Mars also being closest to Earth at 99 million km we saw Mars at its brightest.  Through a telescope we saw it as a distinct red disc, a very rare sight for this planet.

We were able to point out some of the important bright stars though clouds came in the way for some.

There were several telescopes, 6 in fact, lined up including the SkyWatcher telescope of the UNAWE project, the small Project Star telescope, and the Indian Galileoscope, the actual Galileoscope, and another two of my own.  There could have been even more from some of our members.  We were truly be able to show progress in terms of improving our mutual resources for taking astronomy forward in Tanzania.

We dispersed a bit early so we were not able to welcome Saturn, but it will be there definitely during our next meeting.

For that matter, all members who were present during the time that we discussed about the formation of an official astronomy club agreed that it was important to have such a club that would bring together all people with interest in Astronomy.

We agreed that we would initiate the formation of the club during our next meeting when we would ask for official commitments from founding members.
This next meeting was agreed to be held on Saturday 20th March at a venue to be notified.  So please keep 20th March open for this meeting when we will continue with our stargazing activities also.

The UNAWE group also informed us of a plan to hold a stargazing session well away from the light pollution of the City lights.  They will announce the invitations soon.

Thank you for the huge turnout and the exciting evening


On Friday 29th January Joeline had another spectacular public event of showing the Planet Mars to pedestrians and neighbors from her home place at Mbezi Sacuveda in Dar es Salaam. This night Planet Mars was very close to our home Planet Earth and it was a good moment for inhabitants of Planet Earth to be united with Planet Mars as well as to talk and discover the differences between the two. The event was attended by wide spectra of audience and also had one person (Salvatory Mkami) who had just accomplish his turn around the Sun. We would like extend our sincere thanks  to Christina, Iddi and Salvatory for showing a big devotion on giving courage as well as working with UNAWE-Tanzania as a volunteers despite their tight schedules.

We would lastly be grateful to thanks everyone  who came and participate in each of these two events, we do hope that they are going to be good ambassadors of astronomy and science to our fellow Tanzanians considering that they came from different academic field and life experience.

By Mponda and Joeline


One thought on “The Star Party Suprise!

  1. Thilina Heenatigala says:

    Great work! Happy belated birthday to Dr. Noorali, there’s no other way to celebrate your birthday than sharing it with the Universe itself.

    Tanzania is heading for a new direction! A new hope! I wish best of luck to the group and many more exciting astronomical moments to come.

    Clear Skies and keep looking up!

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